Paul Cubitt knows more than most about how drugs destroy lives.
The ACT Senate candidate spends his days and nights working at Canberra's jail ensuring hundreds of addicts are kept under lock and key.
Now the prison guard has joined the Drug Law Reform Australia's Senate ticket, hoping to shake up the attitudes of the major parties to the cause of drug law reform.
The 43-year-old father of two says that 15 years as a prison guard have taught him all he needs to know about the "failed" approach of prohibition and criminalisation of drugs. His party is also running candidates in Victoria, NSW and South Australia with the war cry ''keep the bastards rational''.
"I knew that what is occurring in the law enforcement, judicial and prison systems are direct consequences of failed drug policy," Mr Cubitt says. ''Too many people's lives are negatively impacted by the lack of the old parties addressing drug policies."
Drug Law Reform Australia has been around for a long time as a pressure group but the decision to form a party and contest elections was born of frustration at the refusal of mainstream politics to engage in the prohibition debate.
"It was the fact that the two old parties just won't engage in the discussion publicly," Mr Cubitt said.
"The majority of them, in private, know and admit the current policies are a failure but they just won't talk about it publicly because then the other side would just play politics with the topic. So it was decided that we would form a party and try to force their hands on the issues."
Mr Cubitt acknowledges that he and his fellow candidate Stacey Dowson face an uphill struggle in an electorate dominated by the two main parties. Their nascent political outfit also fell victim to that curse of the small player: late registration.
"We only registered a week before it all closed but nominating late and getting the process started late hasn't helped us get the message out there,'' Mr Cubitt said.
"But a lot of people know that the issue is costing everybody money and is not successful in terms of how the drug issue is being dealt with at the moment.
"The impression we're getting is that people are willing to cast a vote that says they want this issue addressed properly.''
Nobody in the party expects overnight success and Mr Cubitt says he and his colleagues are in it for the long haul. "We're just a small group of volunteers up against hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign funding from the big parties,'' he says. "It's a medium-term project, for us, not something that we expect to have resolved in the next couple of years.''
And the result? ''I wouldn't even be game to say, I'm not a gambler.''
August 26, 2013
Noel Towell | Canberra Times